How Safe is Hookah Smoking?

Hookah smoking is a growing trend among teens and young adults. Though the practice of smoking specially-made tobacco from water pipes is believed by many to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, medical research has shown otherwise.

When one smokes hookah, tobacco is heated by charcoal in a smoke chamber. The smoke then passes through water and is drawn through a rubber hose to a mouthpiece. Hookah smoking typically takes place in a group setting and generally last about an hour.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “hookah smoking delivers the addictive drug nicotine, is as toxic as cigarette smoking, and poses several health risks.” In a typical hookah session, smokers take approximately 200 puffs, compared to cigarette smokers who average 20 puffs a session. Additionally, the volume of smoke inhaled during a hookah session is much higher than the smoke inhaled while smoking a cigarette, 90,000 milliliters compared to 600 milliliters.

It is also believed that the charcoal used to heat the tobacco increases toxicity levels of various compounds, including carbon monoxide and heavy metals. Therefore, hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancer, as well as reduced lung function. These are the same harmful health effects as cigarettes.  Since hookah smoking involves using, and often sharing a mouthpiece, there is also the risk of developing and spreading infectious diseases, such as herpes, influenza, and hepatitis.

Although research on hookah smoking is still developing, there is enough evidence that suggest it is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, if not worse. Hookah smoking and its use of flavored tobacco is marketed to young adults but it’s important to understand there is no such thing as smoking hookah safely.

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